CANBERRA, Australia – A sudden revolt within Australia’s ruling party gave the country its first female prime minister, who promised today to safeguard her government’s reforms in education, health and industrial law.
Julia Gillard had been deputy to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd since their Labor Party swept to power in a landslide election victory in 2007.
In a sudden move that took many government lawmakers by surprise, she challenged Rudd late Wednesday to hold a leadership ballot only months out from an election expected this year.
Rudd acknowledged that the party’s factional power brokers had lost faith in him and did not contest the leadership at a party meeting today, leaving Gillard to be elected unopposed.
“I asked my colleagues to make a leadership change … because I believed that a good government was losing its way,” Gillard told reporters.
Gillard and her new deputy, Wayne Swan, were to be sworn into their offices today by Australia’s first woman Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, within hours of the ballot.
Gillard was born in Barry, Wales, in 1961, the second daughter of a family that migrated to Adelaide when she was 4 years old in search of a warmer climate for her lung complaint.
Once a successful lawyer, she has been attacked by some as unsuitable to lead because she is childless and therefore out of touch with most Australians.